Whether you call it soda, pop, or a soft drink, there is one thing we can all agree on: there is nothing quite like sipping on a cold one on a sweltering summer day, on a long road trip, or really anytime.
But as great as these bubbly drinks taste, they are not so great for our bodies. And as a registered dietitian and mom, there is one particular soda that I think tops the list when it comes to the worst-of-the-worst.
Most sodas are on the “special occasion food” list in my book regardless of whether it is diet, organic, or an old classic. But one soda you will never see me drinking or offering it up to my child is Orange Crush.
The #1 worst soda is Orange Crush because of its “health halo.”
While Orange Crush sounds harmless enough—it has a fruit in the name and an image of an orange slice on the label, after all—in reality, it is a sugar bomb that can do a number to your health. And while drinking it instead of another regular soda does not appear to increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, or other negative health effects any more (or less), I have seen this particular beverage fall under a health halo because of the name and labeling.
In my practice, I have encountered quite a few clients mistaking a cup of Orange Crush as a fruit serving and assuming that drinking it is giving them a boost of nutrition. And when serving beverages to children, some clients proudly tell me that they choose Orange Crush instead of Coke or Pepsi to get some fruit into their kids’ diets. (Related: These Fruits Drive the Most Weight Loss, According to Science.)
Orange Crush is not just orange juice with bubbles.
At first glance, Orange Crush sounds like a better choice than classic dark sodas. It is a similar color to vitamin-packed orange juice and it is easy to assume that it is made with real oranges: a fruit that is loaded with nutrients like vitamin C and folate that has some health benefits.
But after one glance at the food label, you will not find a lick of real orange on the ingredient list. The orange color is a product of mixing man-made red and yellow dyes and the orange taste stems from the use of undisclosed natural flavorings.
And one serving provides zero vitamin C, folate, and potassium – a far cry from a serving of 100% OJ, which contains a whopping 124 milligrams of vitamin C, 110 micrograms of folate, and 496 milligrams of potassium.
Plus, when comparing the added sugar of the content – 71 gram in the Orange Crush vs. 0 grams in 100% orange juice – it is clear that comparing the two is not like comparing apples to apples (or oranges to oranges, in this case).
Taking a closer look at Orange Crush’s ingredients.
With the neon orange hue and the super-sweet orange smell, a cup of Orange Crush is loaded with some ingredients that you will never find on a dietitian’s “must-eat” list.
Instead of having an orange color because the soda contains real orange juice, it contains ingredients like Red 40 and Yellow 6 – both artificial colorings that make this drink orange.
As a by-product of petroleum, consuming red 40 is linked to negative behaviors in children. And when consumption of this dye is limited, some children with ADHD experience some benefit.
It is true that not all carbonated water is detrimental to our health. But when carbonated water is combined with sugar, severe tooth decay may occur.
Orange Crush contains 71 grams of added sugars. Combining this with carbonated water is a perfect storm for unhealthy dental hygiene.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Yes, we expect soda to be sweet. But consuming too much high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener can put a person at increased risk for outcomes like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
While the word “natural” sounds like a safe choice, the reality is that the term does not have a true definition. As long as the original flavoring of the natural flavor comes from a plant or an animal, it can be called a natural flavor on the ingredient list.
What are the specific natural flavors found in Orange Crush? Your guess is as good as mine.
A healthier solution for Orange Crush lovers
Orange Crush provides no vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, or probiotics. Other than the large amount of sugar it contains (equivalent to a little more than 5 scoops of ice cream), Orange Crush doesn’t really offer much of anything but a boost of artificial coloring and carbonated water.
Instead of downing Orange Crush, stick to the original orange drink – good old-fashioned 100% orange juice. 100% OJ contains a naturally sweet taste but without any added sugars. Plus, drinking it is linked to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, less memory loss in men, and a positive anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
If you need some effervescence, simply mix 100% OJ with some plain sparkling water for a similar Orange Crush essence without the artificial colors and added sugars. You will feel just as satisfied and your body will thank you for it.
But it’s not all bad news. For the good side, check out The One Soda That Dietitians Say Is OK to Drink.
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